Important facts about bone and joint injuries in ballet

While some people might not consider it a classic sport like football, baseball or basketball, ballet places a great deal of stress on the bodies of the dancers. It should be no surprise that musculoskeletal injuries can, and do, occur.Ballet

Knowing what types of injuries ballet dancers suffer most commonly, and who is most at risk for them is key for orthopedic surgeons and physicians to better care for these athletes.

A new study published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine sheds some light on ballet injuries. Preston J Smith, M.D. and others at Houston Methodist Hospital performed a systematic review of scientific studies to determine the prevalence of injuries and injury patterns among dancers – male and female, amateur to professional.

Types of ballet injuries

  • 75% to 91% of all ballet injuries affect the lower extremity.
  • 39% to 53% of injuries occur in the foot and ankle, specifically.
  • Lumbosacral pain, or pain of the lower back, affects 62% of dancers, according to one study.
  • 29% of dancers have patellofemoral pain syndrome, according to another study.
  • 91% of dancers report a snapping hip, according to one study. 58% of those dancers have pain from it.

Injury rates

  • Amateur dancers have 0.97 injuries per 1000 dance hours. Professional dancers have a higher incidence of injuries – 1.24 injuries per 1000 dance hours. Combined, amateur and professional dancers suffer 1.09 injuries for 1000 dance hours.
  • Male dancers have a higher injury rate than the females – 1.29 injuries per 1000 dance hours compared to 1.03.

Also read:
Flexor Hallucis Longus (FHL) Tendinitis
Female athlete triad

Overuse injuries

  • Overuse injuries comprise 75% of all injuries to amateur dancers.
  • 57% of injuries in professional ballet dancers are overuse injuries.

Ballet is a popular sport, and the participants have unbelievable physical abilities. With a better understanding the demands on their bodies and injuries they can suffer, orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine physicians can design strategies to decrease injuries in the sport.

Does this injury data surprise you? What can we do to keep ballet dancers healthy? Have you suffered a ballet injury? Please share your thoughts below!

Reference:
Smith PJ, Gerrie BJ, Varner KE, McCulloch PC, Lintner DM, Harris JD. Incidence and Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Injury in Ballet: A Systematic Review. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015;3(7).

6 Responses to Important facts about bone and joint injuries in ballet

  1. Hello Dr. Geier,

    I did not find the data to be surprising since the majority of the injuries in dancers are due to overuse. Specialization in dance at young age, repetitive, long training sessions, growth and maturation contribute to various overuse conditions down the kinetic chain. I believe that we need to implement the following in the early stages of athletic development: strength and conditioning, adequate nutrition and rest. Educating our athletes regarding the importance of soft tissue and joint health and working together with chiropractors, physical and massage therapists is crucial for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

    Thanks,

    Marina

  2. As a mom of three ballet dancers, this is great information to read. Luckily, our studio is huge on warming up, tons of stretching, good nutrition and rest. My oldest is crazy passionate about dance and would go to class 5 nights a week if we’d let her….we have to slow her down all the time.

  3. Any ideas about an 11 yr old dancer who is very athletic and able to flip, tumble and has pain only in knee during ballet and when she takes knee from full extension into beginning flexion. The pop appears to be under the knee, but pain is in back center of the knee. it feels like it is in center: popliteus? not on sides where hamstrings lie.

    • Generally those symptoms in a child before puberty is not a sign of structural damage but is often coming from under the patella. A sports medicine surgeon who sees her could tell you more specifically.

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